A team of scientists in New Hampshire succeeded this week in capturing one of nature’s most destructive forces – ice – and corralling it in two large research plots on the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest. This week, scientists from the USDA Forest Service, Syracuse University, the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Cornell University, University of Vermont, and the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation created an experimental ice storm that will improve understanding of short- and long-term effects of ice on northern forests.
Ice storms are a big deal in a changing world. Ice storms are expected to become more frequent and severe in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada as long term climate continues to warm while short term weather patterns still bring blasts of arctic air into the region. Large Ice storms disrupt lives and damage infrastructure in towns and cities in northern New England, resulting in billions of dollars of damage. Ice storms also literally reshape forests. Heavy ice loads break branches and topple whole trees, resulting in reduced tree growth in ensuing years, increased susceptibility to pests and pathogens, changes in habitat for wildlife, and alterations in how nutrients like carbon and nitrogen cycle in the forest.